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Pittsburgh’s PNC Park Offers Best MLB Experience


Hey, baseball fans, do yourself a favor. You’ll thank me later. You really must make a trip to Pittsburgh to truly appreciate why the Pirates’ PNC Park is labeled MLB’s best ballpark. 
This past March, USA Today rated PNC Park first among the 30 MLB stadiums. Being selected number one on any list takes effort.  So, when USA Today sent out a group of eight baseball reporters and editors to experience what fans could expect when taking in a game, the Pirates’ home took first prize. 
As someone who is around the club during the six weeks of spring training, shuffling between Pirate City and LECOM Park, I wanted to take my reporting on the club to the next journalistic level. After my visit this past week for the three-game series with the visiting Cincinnati Reds, all my expectations and some of PNC Park were met. 
One look around the ballpark, both on Federal Street and inside at the 38,747 seats, and you know why the Pirates’ home is special.  Commitment from ownership, starting with team chairman Bob Nutting and working your way down to the hot dog vendors, it’s clear that employees and fans alike are proud of where they watch Pirates’ baseball. 
By my math, the three games I attended drew 58,358 fans (two night and one afternoon games). Opened in 2001 on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, PNC Park offers an incredible view of the city’s downtown. 
When I arrived on Sunday, the Pirates were wrapping up a six-game road trip that began in St. Louis, and finishing off with a matinee in Denver with the Colorado Rockies.  There were very few people walking around the ballpark. 
Beautiful landscaping on the sidewalks immediately caught my attention. Then, there were banners hung perfectly, one after another, of the individual Pirates players. Statues of legendary Pirates, Hall of Farmers all, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Honus Wagner have their place for fans of all ages to digest. 
The view of PNC Park is truly appreciated when walking from the Sixth Street Bridge, or better known as the Roberto Clemente Bridge.  This bridge takes fans attending games from downtown, over the Allegheny River, right to the gates leading into the ballpark. 
This yellow-colored bridge is familiar for anyone who has ever watched a Pirates game on TV. 
Granted, each day I was in Pittsburgh, temperatures were higher than what Bradenton was experiencing.  However, not once did I hear fans complaining of the heat. As I walked the lower-level concourse, everyone I saw was just happy to take in a Pirates’ game. 
What really made a lasting impression on me was the family-friendly atmosphere surrounding fans.  I heard no foul language. I found employees eager to answer my questions with smiles and genuine care. 

When I went looking for the Pirates’ Hall of Fame wall, I received excellent directions. When I explained to the gentleman at what is a customer service kiosk that this was my first visit to PNC Park, he offered precise landmarks to look for: team store and the like. 
The kindness displayed was genuine. I never felt rushed or inconvenienced.  Along with the hall of fame plaques, there is a giant Pirates’ bobblehead to see and take a picture with. Also, there is a clubhouse store van decked out with Pirates’ logos and an oversized team hat, all in Pirates’ authentic colors. 
Team banners from various stages of the Pirates’ history (Pittsburgh joined the National League in 1887) are hung with care, again creating a warm, friendly atmosphere.   
PNC Park truly invites baseball fans, with a park atmosphere, not a cement bunker-like stadium.  PNC Park has character.  The layout of the seating makes for a good, unobstructed view, wherever you are assigned. I was able to fully concentrate on the play between the foul lines and have no other worries. The atmosphere I experienced could be labeled “folksy”, and “down to earth.”  
Clean.  The concourse floors to the signs hanging telling fans what sections they are in, all that I saw were spotless.  The pride put into keeping PNC Park in pristine shape blows my mind. 
I’m glad that I was able to take in the Pirates’ experience again this season. When the club left Bradenton in late March to begin their season on the road with the Miami Marlins, I’m sure that I wasn’t the only local to be just a little sad. Waiting to February for the Pirates to make a return to Manatee County is a tough hurdle for me to overcome. 
Going to Pittsburgh was therapeutic. All my expectations were met. What a phenomenal time I had. And yes, I’m making a return visit next season. The Pirates make it too darn hard not to.


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